Our 2020 program will be held in two parts:

  • An Opening Weekend of 9 sessions, and…
  • …more sessions throughout the month of October (added as they become available).

A-la-carte Registration: Due to the novel coronavirus, 2020 will feature a series of virtual sessions, and you’ll build your own program by selecting individual events to attend. Registration is $15 for most sessions. Our featured presentation is free. Guests register for each session individually.

All session will be conducted virtually, and details will be emailed to registered guests during the day prior to the session.

Opening Weekend: October 8-10, 2020

Inklings: Going Home with a New First Draft

October 8 @ 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm CDT $15

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The purpose of this workshop is to put the inkling of a new idea for a piece of writing onto paper. Anyone wishing to try a hand at a first draft is welcome. All genres including poetry, essays, editorials, fiction, non-fiction ad infinitum are fair game. We will write something new for about one third of the session and then read our embryonic work and offer only constructive comments for the remaining time. In medical settings we are often pressed for time, with meaningful exercises transforming a patient or professional experience in minutes. I want to expand the amount of time at this conference that we give ourselves to actually get a new idea onto paper and to provide an encouraging environment for initial feedback.

Serena Fox MD (Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center) is an intensive care physician at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, NYC. She believes deeply that poetry and the Humanities have essential roles in the teaching of medicine, ethics, human rights and care-giving. Her poems have appeared in the Paris Review, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and the Western Humanities Review. She is poetry editor for the Examined Life Journal, and author of ‘Night Shift’, 2009. Contact

Teaching Advocacy Through Narrative Medicine

October 8 @ 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm CDT $15

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Understanding the social determinants of health and advocating for change is crucial to providing appropriate care to all populations. Pediatric patients are frequently the first victims of social injustice. Hence the ACGME now requires advocacy training in pediatric graduate education. To address this need, Baylor College of Medicine developed a special track within its pediatric residency to teach and promote advocacy: the LEAD program. At the request of the program directors, we utilized narrative medicine principles to build this novel curriculum. Over five sessions, the authors facilitated discussion and provided education to the trainees and course directors on various foundational elements and skills related to narrative medicine. Warm-up exercises were provided at each session, designed to ‘stretch’ mental muscles by either encouraging participants to reduce a complex idea into just a few words, or to describe a non-written (visual or auditory) prompt as thoroughly as possible. Each session concluded with time for free writing and voluntary sharing. For the inaugural year, the authors applied an overarching narrative construct based loosely on Joseph Campbell’s, Hero With a Thousand Faces. Session themes included “Finding Identity,” “The Journey,” “Challenges and Transformations,” “Finding Purpose,” and “Returning with the Elixir.” After implementing the program, cumulative qualitative evaluations were analyzed. Trainees expressed overwhelming satisfaction with the format, time commitment and activities associated with the advocacy curriculum. The program continues and is currently in its 3rd year. We propose that this is an effective method to teach advocacy to pediatric residents.

Amanda Ruth MD (Baylor College of Medicine) attended Wake Forest Medical school. She completed both her residency in pediatrics and fellowship in pediatric critical care at Emory University. She is currently an assistant professor in pediatric critical care at Baylor College of Medicine. Her research interests include extracorporeal support, anticoagulation, and medical humanities. Contact

Daniel Mahoney MD (Baylor College of Medicine) earned his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, FL. He did his fellowship in palliative care at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. He is currently an assistant professor in pediatric palliative care at Baylor College of Medicine. He has published on pain management in pediatric chronic illness. Contact

Gwen Erkonen MD MME (Baylor College of Medicine) completed her residency in pediatrics, fellowship in pediatric critical care, and masters of medical education at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. She is currently an assistant professor in pediatric critical care at Baylor College of Medicine. Prior to attending medical school, she was a special education teacher in Los Angeles and Chicago. Contact

Featured Presentation: Rana Awdish

October 8 @ 5:30 pm – 6:45 pm CDT Free and open to the public

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We don’t have a description yet, but stay tuned!

Rana Awdish MD (Henry Ford Hospital) is the author of the critically-acclaimed, best-selling memoir, In Shock, based on her own critical illness. She has been interviewed by The Times, The Telegraph, NPR, The BBC, and the Today Show online. She is the Director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and a practicing Critical Care Physician. She lectures to physicians, health care leaders and medical schools both internationally and across the US on the necessity of compassionate care. She also serves as the Medical Director of Care Experience for the Henry Ford Health System. Contact

Developing Story-Based Content that Influences a Culture of Safety in Medicine

October 9 @ 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm CDT $15

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Preventable medical harm is a global issue affecting everyone around the world. The World Health Organization found patient harm to be the 14th leading cause of the global disease burden, comparable to tuberculosis and malaria. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States though still unrecognized as such by the Centers for Disease Control. Communication and the medical culture are often at the root cause of medical harm, leaving room for improvement in both areas. The MedStar Health Institute for Quality & Safety has been developing stories and narratives of both patients and providers to connect the heart and the head of those delivering care, improve patient engagement and the delivery of patient-centered care, and aid in the adoption of a high-reliability culture. By attending this session, attendees will: 1) Understand where stories and narratives are being used within healthcare to build a transparent culture of safety; 2) Know where to access existing tools and resources that can serve as a model or starting point; and, 3) Learn ways to acquire and shape stories from within their existing health system or patient population that can be operationalized to inspire internal culture change.

Tracy Granzyk MS MFA (MedStar Health Institute for Quality & Safety) is a writer, filmmaker and healthcare leader working to improve health equity and patient-provider relationships through stories. Tracy is Executive Director of the Center for Healthcare Narrative at the MedStar Institute for Quality & Safety, and Editor-in-Chief, Please See Me, an online literary magazine for healthcare narratives. Contact

Wounded Storytellers: Responding to Stories of Trauma

October 9 @ 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm CDT $15

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This hands-on workshop will use sample texts to discuss assigning and responding to writing about the “tough stuff”—cancer, hospice, the ICU, and mental health diagnoses. Participants will consider what Arthur Frank has called “the wounded storyteller” as she appears in writing about illness and trauma. We are two writing teachers in the medical humanities and a pharmacist turned writer, and we are interested in exploring how we have written about our own medical and mental health related events, as well as how we respond to students and others who are writing about trauma and illness. We will offer suggestions for telling a traumatic or difficult story as well as reflecting on how to respond to “wounded storytellers.” While writing about illness and trauma is potentially “healing” for the writer, we will consider the limits of healing, the challenges of revision, and the possible consequences of writing as retraumatizing. We are particularly concerned with the ethics of responding to stories about illness and how the subject position of writers—their intersectionality and race, class, gender, sexualities, and dis/abilities—affect the response. For example, Black women have worse medical outcomes in part because their stories are not heard (McMillan Cotton and others). By writing our own difficult stories, what can we learn about listening to other voices, responding to trauma narratives, and embracing empathy? Workshop members will be invited to respond to sample essays, raise concerns about disclosure, and leave with ideas about effective response strategies and their own writing.

Ann Green PhD (Saint Joseph’s University) is a professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Leader in Experiential Education award from the National Society of Experiential Education and the Lindback Lifetime Teaching Award, and she teaches writing and service-learning courses in narrative medicine, environmental justice, and race, class, and gender. She has published in College Composition and Communication, The Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, and a number of edited collections. She has taught immersion courses in Ireland and China, and Life and Its Boundaries, a course in the Inside/Out Prison Exchange Program, for both incarcerated and traditional students. Contact

Elizabeth Kukielka PharmD (Patient Safety Authority) is a Patient Safety Analyst on the Data Science and Research team at the Patient Safety Authority. In this role, she evaluates the literature and analyzes patient safety data collected from various sources, including PA-PSRS, with the goal of synthesizing this information to develop strategies for improving patient safety throughout Pennsylvania. Liz is responsible for authoring articles for the Authority’s peer-reviewed publication, Patient Safety. She also serves as an information resource for healthcare facilities in Pennsylvania. Before joining the Authority, Liz worked for a year as a promotional medical writer for numerous publications, including Pharmacy Times and the American Journal of Managed Care. In that role, she developed manuscripts to educate healthcare providers about medications and health conditions. Prior to that, Liz spent 10 years working as a community pharmacist and pharmacy manager. In the pharmacy, she enjoyed building relationships with her patients and providing them with the tools and support they needed to maximize the benefits of their medication therapy. Her areas of expertise within the pharmacy included immunization delivery, diabetes management, medication therapy management, and pharmacy compounding. While working as a pharmacist, Liz earned her MA in writing studies from Saint Joseph’s University and a certificate in medical writing and editing from the University of Chicago. She is currently pursuing her MS in biomedical writing at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Liz is a registered pharmacist with authorization to administer injectables in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and she is a board-certified geriatric pharmacist. Contact

The Healer’s Burden: An Exploration of Professional Grief

October 9 @ 5:30 pm – 6:45 pm CDT $15

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Professional grief, the personal reactions healthcare professionals experience when patient die, often remains hidden and unexpressed, leading to bereavement overload and burnout. Work in high loss environments often demands turning away from one’s interior experiences and rapidly turning toward the next patient. In this workshop we will read from our creative nonfiction anthology, The Healer’s Burden: Hidden Grief of Healthcare Professionals (Barnwood Books, 2020) and together we will discuss creative strategies for addressing professional grief including the Amherst Writing Method and Narrative Medicine practices.

Gina Pribaz Vozenilek MFA MA (University of Illinois College of Medicine, OSF Healthcare) is a writer who facilitates creative writing workshops for medical students at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and is developing health humanities, arts, and ethics programming at OSF HealthCare in Peoria, IL, where she works as a grant writer. She has a masters in medieval literature from Iowa and an MFA in creative nonfiction from Northwestern University. Her essays have appeared in Ars Medica, Tampa Review, Brain,Child Magazine, and elsewhere. Contact

Melissa Fournier LMSW (Michael’s Place) works as the Program Director for Michael’s Place, a non-profit bereavement support center in Traverse City, MI, where she designs and facilitates grief support programs including Writing Through Loss, an ongoing writing workshop that helps individuals shape their grief narrative. Melissa has worked in adult, pediatric, and perinatal hospice, and has been a featured speaker on end-of-life, perinatal loss, and loss by suicide. She holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Wayne State University. She is currently a student of Narrative Medicine with Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies. Her writing has appeared in Dunes Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine, and Medical Literary Messenger. She is co-editor of AFTER: Stories about Loss and What Comes Next (Barnwood Books, 2019) and author of Abruptio (The Poetry Box, 2019). Contact

Art for Life: How our narrative medicine group uses art to bypass the tyranny of linear processes and humanize the medical journey

October 10 @ 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm CDT $15

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Illness is often stressful and challenging for patients, families, and health care providers, accompanied by intense emotions of sadness, self-doubt, blame, shame, guilt and regret. Medical settings are inherently disempowering, often set up to save lives quickly and discharge patients, without consideration of the emotions that often arise when patients and families encounter illness. Systems organized in favor of collaborative journeys toward health can create better outcomes. Creative writing, live music making, and storytelling provide opportunities to optimize emotional wellbeing for patients and health care providers, increase personal power and agency, build resilience, improve care and reduce stress.

For the past seven years, members of a multidisciplinary group of doctors, nurses, patients, music therapists, poets, psychologists, Child Life specialists, chaplains, and administrative staff have met monthly, incorporating creative techniques using a narrative medicine approach. Members have grown together as a community and have brought this experience into their professional and personal lives. The outcome has been magical. We completed a study using creative writing in clinical practice, and found this approach significantly lowered stress and fostered communication for patients and health care providers. In this experiential workshop, members of our narrative medicine group will engage you in the structure of our process, using an opening and closing meditation, music, art, close reading, and writing. You will leave this workshop as part of a larger community, and will learn how to start and nurture a similar group in your own setting.

Marjorie Getz PhD (Advocate Children’s Hospital) is Co-Director of Narrative Medicine at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Chicago. She co-directs the Narrative Medicine group at her hospital, and works collaboratively with pediatric residents, Child Life, Pastoral Care, Psychology, music therapy, palliative care. The group meets monthly, using writing, music, meditation and relaxation exercises to promote healing. She is also a learning and behavior specialist at ACH. In 1984 she established Educational Consultation and Evaluation Services, in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Behavioral Pediatrics, with a specialty in testing and school advocacy for children with complex medical conditions. Contact

Sheri Reda MA MAR MLI (Flow and Moment, LLC; Advocate Healthcare Narrative Medicine Committee) is a writer, presenter, and performer with more than 30 years’ experience in education and publishing and nearly as many years in performance. She is a certified master life-cycle celebrant who brings storytelling and ritual to individually designed weddings, funerals, and other life passages. She In addition to working with education clients nationwide, Sheri offers workshops and seminars on narrative medicine and nonviolent communications and is a member of the Narrative Medicine Steering Committee at Advocate Healthcare in Park Ridge, Illinois. Sheri also serves on the board of the CG Jung Center, in Evanston, works at Wilmette Public Library, and tells stories as part of Chicago’s live-lit community. Her essays, poems, and stories are available through the Locofo Chaps imprint of Moria Press, Literate Ape online journal, and other publications in the United States and the UK. Contact

Susan Cotter-Schaufele CMT (Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care) is a board certified music therapist, educator and consultant, has worked with patients, families and healthcare providers for nearly 30 years. Currently serving with Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care, Susan designs interventions with live and recorded music to increase physical, emotional and spiritual comfort for those facing health challenges, as well as those providing health care. Contact

David Thoele MD (Advocate Children’s Hospital) is Co-Director of Narrative Medicine (NM) and a pediatric cardiologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital. He learned the healing power of writing when his daughter got sick and he experienced the medical system from a parent’s perspective. He created and co-directs the NM group at ACH. The group meets monthly, using writing and meditation to promote healing. He was the Principal Investigator of an IRB project examining the effectiveness of writing to reduce stress for families and health care providers. His work was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics, at Johns Hopkins, and published in The Permanente Journal. Contact

Sustaining a Literary and Arts Journal: Auscult at the Medical College of Wisconsin

October 10 @ 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm CDT $15

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The Medical College of Wisconsin publishes Auscult, a literary and arts journal, annually. This student-led publication includes stories, poems, and visual art created by individuals from the MCW community. In this session we plant to discuss our latest efforts to produce a sustainable journal, with a focus on increasing submissions. Towards this aim, we have started a new podcast in which we interview contributing authors, read their work aloud, and discuss their creative process and the importance of the humanities in their lives and careers. We will also discuss a book launch event and partnerships with other student organizations on campus. It is our hope that describing our process can provide one example of how to foster a community-wide appreciation for the humanities in the context of medical education.

Alexandra Cohn MSt (Medical College of Wisconsin) is a second year medical student at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She is one of the student editors of Auscult. She received her BS in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and her MSt in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Oxford. Contact

Mami Sow MS (Medical College of Wisconsin) is a first year medical student at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She received her Bachelor in Science from the University of Michigan, followed by a Masters in Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University. She is one of the co-editors of Auscult. Contact

Metaphor, Illness and Meaning: The Aesthetics and Ethics of Writing Pain

October 10 @ 5:30 pm – 6:45 pm CDT $15

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Pain and illness are inherently individual experiences. The sensations of the body are perhaps the hardest thing to communicate to someone outside ourselves, because those sensations resist our attempts to capture them with words. Because of this, we often turn to metaphor to talk about pain, saying pain is burning or stabbing when neither is literally happening. Expand this out, and we also commonly use metaphors to talk about our experience of pain and our relationship to it. Virginia Woolf wrote that simply being brought down by influenza could reveal the “wastes and deserts of the soul.” While Susan Sontag wrote about “full-blown AIDS”, the phrase that was code for “inevitably fatal” when talking about the disease, but which originally referred to flowers in full bloom. Such metaphors take on particular significance when we consider the sociological studies of George Lakoff and James Geary which suggest that human brains are so attuned to metaphor that we will naturally extend the metaphors we hear and read to form whole frameworks of meaning. In other words, the metaphors we use to describe our pain and others’ could determine whether readers sympathize with or judge people experiencing similar pain or illness. In this panel three writers and educators will talk about the metaphors they have read and used for pain and disease, exploring the aesthetic and ethical ramifications of those metaphors and what the responsibility of the writer might be in using them.

Anne Sand MFA (University of Iowa) is a native of southeast Ohio and earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from the University of Iowa in 2017. Her essays have appeared in venues such as The Normal School, H.O.W., and Nowhere. She currently teaches in the Rhetoric Department at the University of Iowa and is writing a memoir that explores the legacy of trauma across three generations of her family. Contact

Bevin O’Connor MFA (University of Iowa) is a writer currently teaching in the Rhetoric Department at the University of Iowa. She received an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and her work has appeared in print and online in publications such as Denver Quarterly, Palette Poetry, Silver Needle Press, Bird’s Thumb, and elsewhere. Her most recent creative projects lyrically explore how landscape, folklore, and cultural traditions shape understandings of self and expressions of grief. Contact

Elena Carter MFA (University of Iowa) holds an MFA from the University of Iowa, where she teaches in the Rhetoric Department and in Iowa’s Liberal Arts Behind Bars program. Her work has appeared in BuzzFeed, In These Times, and The Rumpus, among other places. Contact

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